The Stellyes Center for Global Studies hosted two events on Thursday, Jan. 22 targeted at black males and global opportunities. According to Robin Ragan, Director of the Stellyes Center, this was the first event the college had held that was directed at black men and global opportunities.
“Across the nation study abroad has often been something that has been white and female, and Knox is no exception,” she said.
According to Ragan and Study Abroad Coordinator Lé Passion Darby, black males are one of the lowest groups nationwide to participate in study abroad programs.
“The goals were in the big picture to increase the number of minority students who study abroad, but on a smaller scale we decided to start with black males because the numbers that we came up with were so low in terms of study abroad participation. So once we discovered that we aimed our marketing efforts toward that group for this term,” Darby said.
The first event that the Center for Global Studies held was a black male luncheon, which was open to interested black males on campus. The event was attended by about 20 students who had lunch and listened to speaker Dr. Aaron Bruce, who gave a presentation titled “Beyond the Black Horizon: African American Global Competitiveness.”
Bruce encouraged students to think on a global scale and understand that employers seek candidates who are globally minded and able to work with diverse groups of people. Bruce himself participated in three study abroad programs while he was an undergraduate.
“I realized that there was more to the world than the community I lived in,” Bruce said.
In his presentation, Bruce focused on discussing some of the myths around studying abroad, such as study abroad being unsafe or too expensive for African American students.
Sophomore Jesse Okwu, who is applying to study abroad for his entire junior year in Tanzania and India, said that he appreciated Bruce’s personal anecdotes, which allowed him to further connect with his experiences.
“I thought it was very interesting to learn about some of the myths that African Americans have about the view of study abroad,” Okwu said. “I thought that he also made it really personal, and I felt like the small stories that he gave us were really beneficial and helped us on a personal level because he came from a situation that was similar to what we face.”
Seniors Eric Crawford and Marvin Marshall did not study abroad during their time at Knox, but both chose to attend the event in order to learn more about globalization.
“I knew that globalization is important because I’m a business minor, and that’s where all the money really is overseas and even in Latin America,” Crawford said.
Both Crawford and Marshall said they plan to go abroad after graduating from Knox. They said that Bruce’s speech reaffirmed their plans to do so.
“It was motivational for me because when he was talking about going to different countries and doing different services — that’s what I plan to do after I graduate. So it was kind of more of a motivator for me to stick to the same path,” Marshall said.
The Center for Global Studies held a second event later in the day that honored black males who studied abroad last year. The event was recognizing seniors Michael Cooke, Chaz Benton and Deveon Rose. Cooke was unable to attend the event, but Benton and Rose answered questions from attendees and discussed their experiences studying abroad.
Benton studied abroad in Barcelona for six months during his junior year and Rose traveled to Costa Rica last spring term.
“I would definitely say that my experience so far has in a way it’s been life-changing. It has opened up my eyes to so many things that I wouldn’t have expected, and in a way I know it sounds kind of cliche, but it’s definitely true. It’s just amazing to meet different people and to get their perspectives on what it is like to be an American,” Rose said to the group.
When asked about the financial aspects of studying abroad, Rose and Benton said they were both able to manage by utilizing financial aid and saving up for their programs.
“In regards to financial aid it was actually really good, because the program that I applied for was actually cheaper than a term here at Knox. So it actually worked out pretty well,” Rose said. “In regards to spending money while I was down there, I had to be frugal because I only had so much money.”
Benton said that one of the most frustrating parts of studying abroad for him was not being able to fully express himself in another language.
“You start getting tired after a while of not being able to speak your mind how you want to. It’s almost like you have to create a new personality when you’re abroad because you can’t really be yourself,” Benton said. “My thing with my friends is to be funny and joke around, but I can’t do that in another language, so I couldn’t really be myself and that started to weigh on me after awhile.”
Ragan asked Rose and Benton what they think the Center for Global Studies can do in order to get more male students interested in studying abroad.
“Financial aid was really good for me and it really was supportive, and I think just getting out the word especially on financial aid, because that’s a really big problem just for anyone in general. So if you can go into more specifics about how can this benefit you and what kind of scholarships you can get, I think it will definitely pull in more people,” Rose said.
Benton also noted that it is important for students to have their family supporting their decision to study abroad. He said that he is from a military family who traveled regularly and supported him studying abroad.
“My family was 100 percent behind me traveling, and that makes it a lot easier. A lot of people get their information, but they don’t even get to the first step of presenting it to their parents,” Benton said.
Darby said that the Center for Global Studies plans to hold more events like this in the future. She also said the center plans to focus on making this project a campus wide effort.
“I think that we will continue with these types of efforts so the campus can look forward to seeing more efforts like this, not just for black males, but for different groups as well,” Darby said.